Welcome to Run It Back! In this weekly series, we will summarize the week overall and recap each Sixers game from the previous week (Sunday to Sunday).
The week kicked off with a bit of a letdown for basketball fans hoping to see a battle of the bigs, a faceoff between the top-two MVP contenders, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as Embiid was ruled out with calf soreness. James Harden also was still out due to Achillies soreness. Without the dynamic duo, the Sixers deep bench actually made a run at a comeback, but fell just short — 116-111 in Denver. The Sixers finally returned to South Philadelphia on Wednesday, with Embiid and Harden back in the lineup to defeat the Dallas Mavericks and snap a three-game losing streak. They strung together a second win over the Toronto Raptors before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks on the road to close out the week on Sunday.
The highly-contested MVP race continues to rage on, with Embiid falling out of the clear betting favorite slot after missing Monday’s matchup. I’m sure this debate will continue up until — and long after — the award winner is announced.
The Sixers host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in a Eastern Conference battle at the Wells Fargo Center.
Sixers at Denver Nuggets
Result: L, 116-111
Bell Ringer: Paul Reed
The Philadelphia 76ers lost their third consecutive game Monday night, falling 116-111 to the hosting Denver Nuggets, closing out what turned out to be a brutal road trip for the Sixers.
The Sixers were without star duo Embiid and Harden in this one. We know everyone was hoping for Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic for the final time this regular season, but Embiid is still dealing with right calf tightness and was ruled out. Harden was a late scratch after taking part in shootaround Monday as he continued to recover from Achilles soreness.
It was close in the first half, but with only Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and Paul Reed producing for Philadelphia, Denver was able to pull away in the second half. Frankly, it looked completely over for awhile, with the Sixers down 22 at one point. Everyone thought it was over. It wasn’t until there was just a few minutes left that the Sixers’ deep bench staged a comeback, down three with just 13 seconds to play. A controversial missed out-of-bounds resulted in a Sixers’ foul on Jeff Green, sending him to the line to extend the Nuggets’ lead to five and that was the end of that. But it definitely turned out more interesting than anyone expected.
Dallas Mavericks at Sixers
Result: W, 116-108
Bell Ringer: De’Anthony Melton
The Sixers finally returned to South Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Though they didn’t make it pretty, they finally tallied their 50th win of the season, defeating the Dallas Mavericks at home by a 116-108 score.
It was pretty close, but the Mavs led for most of this game. With the Sixers only taking a couple brief leads throughout, Philadelphia finally took control with a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to take a seven-point advantage. The Sixers really locked all windows and doors down the stretch, as Dallas only scored five points total across the final seven minutes of the game, and were able to hold on to string together their second consecutive win.
Embiid and Harden both returned to action for the contest. Embiid looked healthy for the most part, but it was a relatively quiet night by his standards, totaling 25 points. Harden played his best ball of the night in the fourth quarter, specifically his playmaking. Five of his 12 assists came in the crucial final period.
Toronto Raptors at Sixers
Result: W, 117-110
Bell Ringer: James Harden
The Sixers defeated the Toronto Raptors at home, 117-110.
The Sixers got off to a hot start in this one, making seven of their first eight shots from the field and shooting 67 percent in the opening quarter. creating a 20-point lead at one point. The Raptors’ defense, however, got them back into this game — cutting the 20-point lead to three at one point in the fourth after putting up a 10-0 run. The Sixers’ defense stepped up in the clutch, holding Toronto to just nine points over the last five minutes of the game.
This was an excellent game for Harden, an encouraging sight after he missed almost all of last week with Achilles soreness. He caught fire in the second quarter, and ended the first half with a blistering 17 points and seven assists on 77.8 percent shooting. He finished the contest with 23 points, three rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and one block.
Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks
Result: L, 117-104
Bell Ringer: Tyrese Maxey
The Bucks hung 41 points in the first quarter and never gave up their lead as the Sixers fell, 117-104, Sunday night.
Milwaukee took a 16-point advantage into halftime. Led by a much better defensive effort, the Sixers chipped away in the third quarter, cutting the Bucks’ lead to as low as five. But Embiid picked up his fourth foul with 2:18 left in the third and Milwaukee holding an eight-point lead — far from insurmountable and a nice dent in the halftime deficit. From there, Giannis Antetokounmpo had an open path to the basket, sparking an 11-5 run to close the period.
The Sixers never got any closer as the Bucks stretched their lead to as much as 22 before Doc Rivers waved the white flag. The teams split their season series, 2-2, with each squad stealing a game on the road.